Former Chicago schools CEO expected to plead guilty to corruption charges

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 13, 2015 8:07 AM

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A former Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer is expected to plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday to accepting bribes.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, 66, resigned in June amid a federal probe into a $20.5 million no-bid contract the cash-strapped district had awarded to her previous employer, educational consulting firm SUPES Academy.

The district for the country's third-largest city has had five chief executives in four years and is making drastic spending cuts this year as it faces a potential $1.1 billion deficit.

Byrd-Bennett's lawyer has said she is cooperating with the investigation.

A 43-page federal indictment made public last Thursday includes criminal charges against Byrd-Bennett and against SUPES, the related firm Synesi Associates and the companies' owners. The indictment involves more than $23 million in contracts.

She is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. The other indicted parties also face bribery and conspiracy charges.

In of her alleged email exchanges with SUPES owner Gary Salomon, Byrd-Bennett wrote: "I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit (:”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Byrd-Bennett to head the district, which serves 400,000 students in 660 schools, in 2012, after the first teachers' strike in Chicago in 25 years. The SUPES contract began in 2013.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Eric Beech)